If you’re trying to break into sports, one of the most important things you can do is position yourself as an expert. You do this by narrowing your focus to the one thing you’re most passionate about and tie it to your God-given talent.
Employers love experts. They will hire the expert over the “good at everything” person every time. Why? Because all of us (you and me included) hire experts to meet our needs in nearly every facet of our lives.
Think about it. If your Range Rover needs to be serviced, you won’t settle for Larry’s Auto Service. If you go down with a knee injury, your family doctor just won’t do. If you sell your business for $50 million, you don’t have a general practice attorney write up the contract. Employers are no different. They don’t settle; they hire experts to meet specific needs just like you and me.
Your Brand Position
I love what Jay-Z said: “I’m not a businessman. I’m a business, man.” To break into sports, you need the same mindset. If you’re a business, or a brand (and you are), what sets you apart? What’s your expertise? What is your specialty?
When I first started my own sports marketing company 20 years ago, I was in the same shoes you’re in today. Like you, I didn’t know anyone in sports. And even worse, no one knew me or the company I was trying to get off the ground.
I couldn’t call Pepsi-Cola or Frito-Lay and say, “Hi, this is Chris McKinney. I have a sports marketing company. You should sponsor my events.” I tried, but they wouldn’t even take my calls. So, I had to do something drastic.
What I did was implement a new “Brand Position” strategy. Instead of a generic sports marketing company, I re-positioned it as a company that specialized in reaching Generation X. (Keep in mind, this was two decades ago and GenX was the most sought-after demo in all of marketing, much like Millennials are today.)
By simply re-positioning myself as a “GenXpert,” I was able to get the attention — and the contracts — of Pepsi-Cola, Frito-Lay, Ray-Ban and many others, because I could meet their very specific needs.
Your Passion & Your God-given Talent
Most of us have a passion for things we have a natural talent for. For me, basketball was my passion. But unfortunately, making First Team All-District in high school was my only on-court achievement. I realized if I was going to make a living in basketball, I’d need to bring more than a nice jumper, decent handles and tenacious D.
My talent, if you want to call it that, was and is, selling. I love to sell. But only things I love. And I love basketball. So when I started my own sports marketing firm, guess what I did? I sold Corporate America on the idea that my basketball tournaments were the best investment for their marketing dollars. And they bought it.
You can do the same thing. Tie your passion to your talent. And do it with purpose. If you have a passion for social media and how it relates to sports, or sports PR, or sports marketing, that’s great because that’s what will drive you. Now you just need to dig below the surface and discover exactly what it is you can do different — or better — than anyone else in that field.
True expertise doesn’t happen overnight. As a matter of fact, it takes a lifetime, but you can still initiate the expert mindset. It begins with total immersion. You must become totally consumed with your subject (e.g. basketball passion), and your craft (e.g. sales talent), and the one thing you can do better than anyone when you ties those two things together, your purpose (e.g. expert service of reaching targeted consumers through basketball).
Your expertise starts now!
Answer these questions:
1. What Sport Are You Most Passionate About?
2. What Are Your God-given Talents?
3. What Business Area of That Sport Could Utilize Your Talent?
4. Who Are the Experts in That Field?
5. What Can You Do That Will Set You Apart From Everyone Else?
6. What Specific Need(s) Can You Fill?
7. Who Are the Companies That Hire for That Position?
Photo: Courtesy of Sports Career News (In photo: Raymond Ridder, Director of PR, Golden State Warriors)
great article! perfectly articulates and outlines the appropriate steps required to be successful in sports- as a budding sports marketer/pr girl myself, this was a fantastic confidence booster! thanks
Thanks. I am trying to do this myself. I know my passion and I tried an angle for internal communication but that didn’t sell itself but they have another position open which is digital marketing which I am strongly passionate about. I really want a way in and I am going to hustle my way in if I have to. Just trying to figure out another angle and how to do it.
@JamieFavreau Jamie – don’t give up! Let your passion drive you. But also make sure you can find someone already in the industry doing what you want to do. It’s important to have role models. I even recommend that you contact them and interview them over the phone for a blog post.
BEST ANGLE TO GET FOOT IN DOOR: Identify something that your target organization needs and do it for them. In the digital space there are all kinds of unique opportunities for this. Offer your services for free.
I can tell you that without question, this is by far the best and easiest way to get in and establish some relationships as well as some tangible, “look what I did for so and so” type work.
You can do it!
@gkim Thanks gkim! Love to hear that. You can get more here: http://www.sportslaunch.net
Keep in touch!
Karah Sanford – Golfer Girl…
Great post. It really is all about asking yourself those important questions that Chris lays out for you. It’s action time!